Framed apologies could cost Prairie South School Division more than $1,000

Nathan Liewicki
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Prairie South School Division trustee Brian Swanson explains something as superintendent of business and operation Bernie Girardin (middle) and trustee Tim McLeod (right) look on during Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.

A 2008 federal apology triggered discussion at Tuesday’s Prairie South Board of Education meeting.

For about 10 minutes, board members debated the merits of a resolution that was passed at the Saskatchewan School Board Association’s Fall General Assembly Nov. 11-13.

The resolution encouraged every publicly funded school in the province to frame and place the federal government’s June 2008 statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential schools in a prominent place within their respective buildings.

“The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when he addressed the House of Commons nearly five-and-a-half years ago.

“The government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.”

The debate amongst Prairie South School Division (PSSD) board members was, however, very one-sided.

Lew Young was one of three trustees who questioned the particular relevancy of erecting the apology in PSSD schools.

Tim McLeod echoed Young’s concerns. The Moose Jaw-based trustee said it would be more pertinent to make sure students are taught about what happened in regards to residential schools in the context in which it occurred.

“I think there’s a lot of Canadian history that surrounds that, and my fear is that if you post something on the wall namely a letter of apology it makes reference to an event, but it gives no context to the event,” said McLeod. “I would hate to see the posting of a letter of apology be all that our children ever hear about the residential schools.”

He added that it’s a far too important historical event to be passed over with just a letter of apology.

Add to it that each framed apology would cost the PSSD about $35 roughly $1,120 across the division and skepticism for doing so remains high amongst board members.

“If you talk about the ($35) per photo frame, it’s over $26,000 that it would cost to put that in every school in the province,” McLeod stated. “Twenty-six thousand dollars is a lot of money to go towards curriculum development on that particular issue.”

Fellow trustee Darrell Crabbe also said he doesn’t see the value of the frames.

Crabbe doesn’t want people to think what happened in residential schools shouldn’t be recognized, but like McLeod, he too believes the money can be better spent elsewhere.

“It was an atrocity. It happened,” said Crabbe. “I think there should be more resources spent certainly not just financial resources on the curriculum to make sure everybody understands what occurred and make sure it never happens again.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Prairie South School Division, Saskatchewan School Board Association, General Assembly House of Commons

Geographic location: Canada

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